Build up your strength with these satiating, nutrient-dense recipes from our Director of Ayurveda.
Wintertime is an excellent time to build up your strength for the year ahead — physically, mentally and spiritually. According to Ayurveda, the winter months are the healthiest time of the year, when your digestive capacity is naturally at its peak relative to other times of the year.
Ayurveda is ancient India’s science of natural health and healing — the so-called “sister science” of yoga. In Ayurvedic wisdom, digestion is poetically compared with a fire. The Sanskrit word for digestion is agni, which literally means an inner fire. There is an inverse relationship between your inner digestive fire and the outer fire of the sun.
What this means: When the strength of the sun is high during the summer months, your inner digestive “sun” or fire is low so that you don’t overheat. This is why you tend to feel less hungry during the summertime.
In the wintertime, when the weather gets colder and lunar energy becomes more powerful than solar energy, your inner digestive fire heats up, making you feel hungrier. (Read this for more on how to maximize winter, the Ayurvedic way.) This inverse relationship between the inner digestive fire and outer sun ensures that your body remains in a state of homeostasis.
Like squirrels gather nuts to fuel them for a long time to come, you are also encouraged to eat nourishing foods that will ensure your body, mind and soul have ample strength for the whole next year ahead. Here are three of my favorite Ayurvedic recipes for winter that are easy to make — and sure to please.
Warm your heart with butternut squash
Butternut squash’s Sanskrit name, kushmanda, is synonymous with health, wealth, abundance and heart, which nods to this vegetable’s heartwarming and nourishing qualities.
Ayurveda embraces the medicinal properties of healing spices in cooking all different types of foods, primarily to aid in digestion. This recipe involves quite a few excellent Ayurvedic digestive spices.
Butternut Squash Recipe (serves two):
1. Heat 1 teaspoon ghee on a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon of each of these digestive seeds: cumin, fennel, ajwain and fenugreek. Swirl and cook till fragrant, usually 10 to 15 seconds.
2. Add 8 to 10 curry leaves and 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated, and cook for 5 seconds.
3. Add one onion, finely chopped, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Add two cups peeled and diced butternut squash, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder and Himalayan rock salt to taste. Cook, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes to prevent sticking, until the butternut squash is soft enough to cut with a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. You can optionally garnish with cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Enjoy this delicious recipe with tortillas or rice and lentils of your choice.
Make a mouthwatering masoor dal
Masoor dal is a lentil with a unique hearty taste and texture, and it goes particularly well with butternut squash and white basmati rice. Whole masoor dal is brown and is preferred here, though you could also use the split red version — just reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes.
Masoor dal promotes easy digestion and is especially beneficial for any bleeding conditions or fever. You can also enjoy split masoor dal in a mung dal soup by itself. This masoor dal recipe is considered sattvic, meaning it enhances your mental clarity and sense of independent contentment and inner peace.
Masoor Dal Recipe (serves two):
1. Rinse 1/2 cup of whole masoor dal until the water is clear, then add to a small bowl. Add enough water to cover the dal by 1 inch and soak for at least 1 hour.
2. Place the dal and soaking water, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder and Himalayan rock salt to taste into a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the dal looks mushy, about 1 hour.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, swirl and cook until fragrant, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the cooked ghee to the cooked dal. Garnish with cilantro if you like.
Boost your strength with Ashwagandha pancakes
Ashwagandha is an amazing adaptogenic herb used in Ayurveda for health, as well as to enhance shukra, your sexual tissue, and enhance your spiritual consciousness. (For what it's worth, sexual tissue is important for everyone, not just those who are sexually active — in Ayurveda, your sexual energy is contained not only in your reproductive organs, but also in every cell of your physical body.)
Ashwagandha can enhance your immunity, libido and fertility, and can also support you in channeling your sexuality in a spiritual direction. Doing so also helps build your physical strength and power for the year ahead.
This nourishing recipe is made with urad dal, a heavy Ayurvedic lentil known as “poor man’s meat” in India, as it was more affordable there than meat. Urad dal serves as an excellent meat substitute if you are vegetarian.
Ashwagandha Pancakes Recipe (pictured above)
1. Mix together 2 tablespoons Ashwagandha powder with 4 tablespoons sesame seed powder and 16 tablespoons urad dal powder with 4 tablespoons coconut sugar or jaggery. This dry pancake batter can be saved for some time.
2. When you are ready to cook the pancake, slowly start to add a spoonful of water at a time and mix slowly until the batter is thin enough to make a thin pancake.
3. Put ghee on a hot pan and add batter to make a crepe/pancake. Make circles in the batter with the back of your spoon to help it thin out and cook through. Flip and let the other side brown and cook through. Enjoy while warm.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. At THE WELL, our practitioners, including a licensed herbalist and medical doctor, can help you find the best herbal remedies for optimal health.